2018 Western Conference Playoffs, First Round
San Antonio 101, Golden State 116
Golden State leads series 2-0

It is entirely possible that the Spurs outplayed the Warriors on Monday night.

It is entirely definitive that the Warriors outshot the Spurs on Monday night.

With such a talent disparity between the two teams, that was more than enough for the Warriors to run away with another win in this (so far) lopsided series. The old axiom “it’s a make or miss league” rang true Monday night. When you have more talent and more makes, you’re going to win.

The Spurs played a wonderful first half. They made the adjustments they needed: starting Rudy Gay to get more shooting and offense on the floor; ditching the new defensive scheme that confused the team; and generally playing harder and smarter. The defense in particular was strong in the first half, forcing the Warriors into turnovers and generally making life difficult for their scorers.

The offense was better, too. The Warriors defense wasn’t bullying them around, and they were able to establish LaMarcus Aldridge often and early, and he responded with a wonderful all-around game. The team was patient, and was getting good shots.

Problem was, they weren’t making any of them. And missing lots of them. And missing. And missing.

Fun fact: the Spurs shot 4-for-28 from 3 for the entire game. (Patty was 3-for-9, leaving the rest of the team an astonishing 1-for-19. Oof.) The Warriors made 6 threes in the fourth quarter alone.

To beat the Warriors you have to have a great game plan and you have to execute that game plan. But eventually, you have to make your shots.

So after all of that, the Spurs only had a 6 point lead at halftime. Good, but we could all see where this was heading.

The start of the third quarter proved to be the turning point of the game, as the Spurs let go of the rope just enough to lose control of the game. The defense wasn’t quite as sharp, the offense stopped executing, and the Warriors got easy points in transitions and just started making the kinds of shots the Spurs were unable to make.

Here is a breakdown of the first 10 possessions of the third quarter spanning about 5 minutes of game time:

–Spurs turnover leading to a Warriors alley-oop;
–Spurs turnover, Warriors turnover;
–Spurs missed 3 pointer, Warriors made 3-pointer;
–Rudy Gay drives into two defenders, misses layup and fouls going for board, Warriors miss shot;
–Spurs turnover leading to another Warriors alley-oop;
–Spurs make a 3 pointer, Warriors make a 3 pointer;
–Spurs miss a 3 pointer, Warriors miss;
–Warriors force a jump ball and win possession (essentially a turnover), leading to a layup;
–Spurs missed 3 pointer leading to a Warriors fast break dunk;
–Spurs missed 3 pointer, Rudy Gay offensive rebound and dunk, Warriors 3 pointer

Tallying it up, that’s a 17-5 Warriors run, turning a Spurs 6-point lead into a Warriors 6-point lead. The Spurs would fight back and stay competitive, but this stretch is where the game turned and the Spurs lost control.

The Spurs hit a few more shots, the Warriors miss a few more shots, and this is a competitive game. The Spurs did everything they could to steal one on the road. But that’s kind of missing the point: the Spurs roster isn’t built to make shots, and the Warriors roster is. Mills had a decent shooting night, and he hit some tough long jumpers to keep the game kind of close in the 4th. But there is no great shooter on this roster right now.

The Spurs defense is not good enough to make up for the inadequacies of the offense. The Game 2 defense was much better than the Game 1 defense, and the Warriors scored more in Game 2 than game 1! The Spurs offense just can’t hang point for point with the Warriors. The defense would need to have a perfect game to give the Spurs a chance, and even then the Warriors shooting could be enough to get the win.

But now the series moves back to San Antonio, where the Spurs were a completely different team this season. Plenty of people are writing this series off as a sweep now, and maybe they should. But for those of us who have watched this team all year, we know that the Spurs are more than capable of beating this Warriors team at home.

I think the Spurs win Game 3. (If they don’t, just pack it up, the season’s over). Which then makes Game 4 the pivot game of the series. Can the Spurs make the series competitive? Or will it become a “Gentleman’s Sweep”?

Either way, the season now comes down to two games at home. It’s been a tumultuous and somewhat joyless season. But considering the pride and heart of this team and franchise, and with two games at home, I like our chances.

Go Spurs Go.